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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Judge grants ‘divorce’ to same-sex couple

DES MOINES, Iowa (BP)–An Iowa same-sex couple has been granted a divorce from their civil union even through the state doesn’t recognize such contracts.

Judge Jeffrey Neary granted the divorce in Woodbury County District Court Nov. 14, and later said that he had not noticed that the couple was of the same-sex. But upon discovering that it involved two women, he let it stand.

The two women, Kimberly J. Brown and Jennifer S. Perez, received the civil union in Vermont, the only state where civil unions are legal.

Conservatives groups are appealing Neary’s ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

“If I’m presented with a dispute that has to be resolved in my courtroom, or is before me that affects the rights of Iowans, I feel an obligation to solve that problem,” Neary said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t believe I’m recognizing same-sex marriage. I’m not making a decision about whether I either agree or disagree with same-sex union. I clearly look at this as a dispute between parties that in some way I’m going to have to solve.”

Lawsuits seeking recognition of civil unions in other states have always failed. Additionally, Iowa is one of 37 states with a defense of marriage law banning same-sex “marriages” within its borders.

Interestingly, Neary defended his action by appealing to the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause, saying it requires states to recognize the laws of other states, according to AP. Conservatives fear that a federal court will use the full faith and credit clause to strike down the various defense of marriage acts.

The Iowa Liberty and Justice Center appealed the decision on behalf of six Iowa legislators, according to the Sioux City Journal.

“[The appeal is] based on the belief that Judge Neary overstepped his bounds and tried to legislate [for] himself,” Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley said, according to the newspaper. “That violates the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches of government.”

BUSH SPOKESMAN CLARIFIES — It appears likely that any constitutional marriage amendment President Bush supports won’t ban Vermont-type civil unions. Bush implied during an interview with ABC’s Primetime that he would leave civil unions up to the state, and his spokesman reiterated that point Dec. 18.

“We said, going back to the campaign, that states have the right to decide legal arrangements that they so choose,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said at a White House press briefing.

McClellan said that Bush would not have supported civil unions in Texas when he was governor. But Bush will do “what is legally necessary to protect the sanctity of marriage,” McClellan said.

Some social conservatives want to see the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment strengthened to ban civil unions. Others say that such a change will lead to certain defeat.

COURT CONSIDERS UNIONS — The Massachusetts high court has asked that all “interested persons” submit legal briefs as it considers whether the legalization of civil unions will meet the standards of its controversial Nov. 18 ruling. The state Senate asked the Supreme Judicial Court for an advisory opinion.

Civil unions would grant same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage without using the word “marriage.”

“We believe this majority opinion is a weak majority,” Massachusetts Family Institute President Ron Crews told The Boston Globe. “I don’t think it is strong in its absolute conviction that the legislature does not have the right to define marriage.”

Others say that the decision legalizing same-sex “marriage” is final and that the court simply is being fair, The Globe reported. The court stayed its decision for 180 days.

OPPOSITION GROWS — A new CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll shows that opposition to same-sex “marriage” continues to grow. The latest poll, of 1,000 adults, shows that Americans oppose it by a margin of 65-31 percent. In October the margin was 61-35, and in June it was 55-39.

Additionally, opposition is strong. In the new poll 52 percent said they “feel strongly” that same-sex marriage should not be legalized, compared to only 17 percent who feel strongly that it should be recognized.

The poll was conducted Dec. 15-16.

NEW MONTANTA POLL — Registered voters in Montana oppose the legalization of same-sex “marriage” by a margin of 72-15 percent, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll.

The poll of 615 registered voters was conducted Dec. 8-10.

N.J. CONTROVERSIAL BILL — By a vote of 41-28 the New Jersey General Assembly passed domestic partner legislation Dec. 15 that would give same-sex couples many of the benefits of marriage, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The benefits would also apply to heterosexuals 62 and older — a provision that may lead to a lawsuit claiming age discrimination, the newspaper said.

The bill has passed a Senate committee, and Gov. James McGreevey, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign it, the newspaper said.

The bill is “an incremental step to same-sex marriage,” Seriah Rein, chairwoman of the Council on the American Family, said, according to the Inquirer.

APPEAL IN ARIZONA — A same-sex couple in Arizona has appealed their case to the state Supreme Court following a defeat on the state appeals court level. In October an appeals court unanimously ruled that “same-sex marriages are neither deeply rooted in the legal and social history of our Nation or state nor are they implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” The case involves two homosexual men who sued the state seeking a marriage license.

The Alliance Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the state.

“Arizona’s long-standing marriage laws should not be subverted by activists advocating extremist views rejected by the majority of Arizonans and Americans,” Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, said in a statement.

The case is Stanhardt v. Superior Court.

GREAT BRITAIN TOO? — The United Kingdom is moving to legalize civil partnerships that would give same-sex couples most of the legal benefits of marriage.

Queen Elizabeth II outlined the goal in late November, saying in a speech, “My government will maintain its commitment to increased equality and social justice by bringing forward legislation on the registration of civil partnerships between same sex couples.”

Her speech signals the opening of Parliament.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust